“CONGRATULATIONS, WE are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted to Yonsei University starting Spring Semester.” An acceptance letter holds special meanings for every newly-admitted college student, but especially for transfer students who have left the familiar confines of their previous university to strive for more prestigious education. With high hopes of starting anew, transfer students strive to be integrated into new environments and lifestyles. As a newly admitted transfer student myself, I have personally encountered the difficulties that result from the lack of awareness of transfer students by the Yonsei community and the vacancy of an official organization that serves as a communication channel between our voices and the school administration.
How do students transfer?
Students who wish to transfer are met with two options: either the “general transfer” or a “transfer with a bachelor’s degree.” The more common admission method is the former which requires students to have completed at least four semesters at their previous university. The other option is to transfer with a bachelor’s degree: students need to have obtained a bachelor’s degree at their previous schools. Either way, transfer students enter their new universities as junior-year students.
As students continuously aspire to attend internationally recognized universities that offer greater opportunities for career prospects and studying overseas, Yonsei University is one of the most desirable options in Korea. The resulting high demand for transfer into Yonsei from a range of other universities makes students fear the competition. In 2018, the acceptance rate was 17.71:1 for general transfer applicants and 1.60:1 for applicants transferring with a bachelor’s degree, which translates to a total of 144 and 80 students via the general transfer and transfer with a bachelor’s degree respectively*. The number of students admitted to each college at Yonsei University ranges from 1 to 16, but they are scattered among different majors within the college, leaving only 1 to 2 new transfer students per major.
With a relatively small number of transfer students allocated in each major, it is difficult for students to communicate with each other for the essential support they need in adjusting to the new academic and social environment. Yet, as of 2019, Yonsei University lacks an officially recognized body to aid transfer students, aggravatingtheir already difficult transition process.
The under-represented voices
Transfer students who have already experienced two or four years of college life in their previous schools naturally hold higher expectations for the new university. However, the transit at Yonsei University is not as easy, starting from the admission process. Academic accreditation, the process of Yonsei University officially accepting course credits from previous universities, is a crucial and compulsory step. It requires students to complete a form, including signatures of the Dean of the department and of all professors who have taught the courses the student requests for accreditation.
Despite the importance of this process, it is not effectively systematized at Yonsei. In an interview with The Yonsei Annals, Bang Hyun-woo (Jr., Dept. of Political Science & Int. Studies) explained, “I was sent back and forth between the administrative office and the Dean three times during the process of acquiring the Dean’s signature. I was frustrated that those in charge of accreditation were unfamiliar with the entire process themselves.”
The accreditation process does not stop at gaining professors’ signatures. The number of credits required to graduate is applied identically to regularly admitted students and transfer students. However, the maximum number of credits that a transfer student can gain approval through accreditation is limited to 12 credits for major courses and common curriculum courses. Application for accreditation does not guarantee approval either; this is then determined by professors who evaluate whether the course taken is similar enough to that of Yonsei. From the perspective of transfer students, who believe to have taken similar courses to that of Yonsei University, the denial of accreditation is often difficult to accept. Moreover, there are Yonsei-only freshmen courses such as the Freshmen Writing Insensitive Seminar that is required for Underwood International College (UIC) students and only offered at Yonsei International Campus (YIC) in Songdo. Accepted junior transfer students whose classes are mostly based in the Sinchon campus, are often inconvenienced by the need to travel to YIC to fulfill these requirements.
On top of academic concerns resulting from this complicated administration process, the relatively insignificant number of transfer students have resulted in difficult social transitions. Kim Yong-duk (Jr., UIC, Underwood Division) stated, “I felt left out from receiving important notices because I was not invited to any department chatrooms where information about school events, student clubs, and student council affairs is mostly shared,” illustrating the hardships transfer students encounter from information asymmetry.
Unlike freshmen students who are required to attend an orientation and are given numerous opportunities to interact with peers and upperclassmen, transfer students cannot enjoy the same level of interaction. Bang added, “I find it easier to approach people by entering student clubs compared to participating in department events or Membership Trainings (MT), because students within our major have already befriended each other since the beginning of university life. All first-year students have experienced Songdo dormitory life at YIC, which we [transfer students] are completely unfamiliar with.”
Demands met with change?
Unlike Yonsei University, Korea University established the Korean University Transfer Student Committee (KUTSC) in September 2014. According to KU News, the establishment of KUTSC was initially met with opposition as the regularly admitted student body was unable to completely comprehend the hardships of transferring. However, through outspoken voices of the transfer student community, it was recognized that the demands of transfer students differed greatly from those of regularly admitted students. Subsequently, KUTSC was founded with the main objective of assisting transfer students in integrating smoothly into a new community, and setting an example for other colleges to follow suit. KUTSC has hosted events such as the “School Orientation for Transfer Students” to educate transfer students on the unique culture of Korea University, such as school cheers, drinking traditions, and upperclassmen relationships.
Beginning in March 2019, Yonsei University’s transfer students have begun to take measures to meet their own needs. A number of transfer students formed an unofficial “Yonsei University Transfer Student Committee” and the first recruitment of members will commence this September. The organization has not been recognized by Yonsei University yet, but it is in the process of obtaining an official status. In an interview with the Annals, a representative of the committee, Park Seo-jin (Jr., Dept. of Nursing) said, “All transfer students share a common characteristic of being new to our [Yonsei] university. Our main objectives consist of improving the academic accreditation system and increasing the number of opportunities for transfer students to interact with other students. Ultimately, we aim to serve as a bridge between the transfer student community and the rest of the school.”
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In response to frequent complaints coming from transfer students, a committee, has finally been created to ease their integration into Yonsei. Though unofficial, it has a clear goal and is making its way to becoming a formal student group. In response to our efforts to become a more recognized entity, transfer students hope that the Yonsei community will meet us halfway.